November is National Adoption Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness around adoption as it’s just one amazing way to save lives. This month celebrates all those impacted by adoption from adoptees to adoptive families. Adoption is truly a life changing gift. Currently, about 135,000 people are adopted in the U.S. every year and there are over 1.5 million adoptees in the U.S. total.
However, that being said, National Adoption Month also brings awareness to the struggles many adoptees face. They are twice as likely to suffer from a mental health disorder compared to someone who is not adopted. There are also many families waiting to adopt and thousands of adoption-eligible children in foster care waiting for forever families. November is a month to celebrate and embrace all the amazing lives saved and touched by adoption.
This year, the theme “Every Conversation Matters” focuses on the teens and young adults who are eligible for adoption; this demographic is historically harder to find permanent families for. The older a child is, the more important it is to include them in conversations about their “permanency plans” and listen to what their desires, fears, and goals are.
While adopting older children is done less frequently, these children need a home just as much as the cute little infants and toddlers do. In September of this year, Kelly Gravelle in Michigan took the big step to adopt Leila on her 16th birthday after fostering her. Kelly and Leila had a lot of conversations about adoption. Leila’s initial hope and goal was to be reunited with her biological family, and Kelly let her know that Leila did not have to agree to anything she did not want to. However, after spending time with Kelly, Leila’s desires changed. “My want to get adopted was just to have somebody to be a good caring parent that teaches you how to be a good adult.” And Kelly could provide just that for Leila.
Beyond including older children in conversations surrounding their adoption, every conversation matters with regard to the beautiful option of open adoption. Open adoption is an adoption option that lets both the biological mother and the adoptive parent(s) discuss how much openness in the adoptive parent-child-biological parent triad relationship there is. Will there be monthly visits with the biological mother? Phone or video calls? Emails or texts? A once-a-year meeting to celebrate the child’s birthday or a holiday? Talking through all these options and what the desires of each side are is very important when considering an open adoption.
Brock and Kate explain how they made absolutely sure that the biological mother was okay with placing her child for adoption, with Kate stating, “I wanted to reassure her that we supported her whatever she wanted to do, and she should never feel like she couldn’t change her mind – because it’s her child.”
They also thoroughly discussed how much openness they all wanted after the adoption was final, and why they thought an open adoption was so important: “It’s never going hurt a child to have his biological family available to answer questions, and it’s just going to be easier if there’s been a relationship from the beginning.”
You can learn more about the 2021 theme of Every Conversation Matters by watching and reading adoption stories about teens and young adults here.
Chinese-American adoptee and published author who seeks to share my story and inspire others.